Hammersmith Odeon – a Review

This is yet another great release from the Zappa family trust. Excellent material (yes, one of my favorite line ups), great sound, not as “close” as Frank used to make them, but the sound is clear and the balance between the intruments and voices is very good. In some selections the vocals are a little too low though.
The sound is compressed BUT it’s not overdone, like on the Buffalo album. It’s more like the Philly ’76 album.

Read the full review at Radio Dupree! (You’ll find some reviews here as well in the discography section.)

Theydon Bois Reviews Zappa At The Roundhouse

Over the weekend, Theydon Bois has been posting his experiences and thoughts on the Roundhouse event in this KUR thread. In fact, he did such an amazing write-up, I figured it deserves its own post. Many thanks Mr. Bois!

Continue reading “Theydon Bois Reviews Zappa At The Roundhouse”

Frank Zappa poltti näppinsä Suomessa

A finnish article about the ’74 show in Helsinki:

Zappa had in Helsinki, Finland two concerts on September 22, 1974 (famous Helsinki concerts, YCDTOSA vol. 2). Short concert review (“Voihan Zappa!” is on page 89). Before that on September 17 Zappa made a PR trip to Helsinki, described in the main article together with an interview (pp 24-31). The day before concert on September 21 Frank and Gail Zappa attended a wedding in Helsinki, which is included into the main article too. Their wedding present was a cappella performance of Approximate. A lot of funny pictures!

PS. Another nice article in English describing these events (and more) is Frank Zappa in Finland.

Nice article, it’s on afka.net (found on the site FZ in Hugrary).

Jimmy Carl Black: Stick Man For Ever!

I just received my copy of Jimmy Carl Black’s “Stick Man For Ever!” in the mailbox from Cafepress. Except for lacking the appropriate ID3 tags to the mp3 tracks when I uploaded the CD onto my computer, and the non-existent liner notes (a playlist would have been helpful, too), which I chalked up to the obvious hurry to get this limited edition CD out and available so as to aid Black with imminent medical bills.

Thanks, Barry, for sending me the playlist:

* Blonde Haired Woman
* Stick Man
* Low Ridin Man
* Lady Queen Bee
* Ocean and Love
* Thank You, Come Again
* Teenage Credit
* 59 Chevy
* Freedom Jazz Dance
* Black Limousine
* Indian of the Group
* Chief Old Fox

Some have suggested that there are “no FZ influences” on this CD, but I suggest they need to listen a little closer, and also recall both the beginnings of the Mothers of Invention as a basic blues band, and the style and tone of music being performed in and around those beginnings. Almost all the tracks on Stick Man are full of killer blues riffs which remind me of early Mothers recordings found on various Zappa CD’s (think of the presence of saxophone, bass, guitar and drums) such as “Memories of El Monte” on Cucamonga, “Original Mothers At The Broadside (Pomona)” on Mystery Disc, and various individual tracks on Joe’s Corsage and Xmasage. I am also struck by the familiar Zappa themes such as the relationship between males and cars, boys and girls, teen culture, and L.A. cultural references which are also found on Stick Man.

Indeed, sometimes the influences are not as obviously “in your face” as on other CD’s by Zappa alumni, but they are there. And if you’re also a Grandmothers fan like me, this CD is a must have from one of the most endearing members of the early Mothers. That it’s helping him pay his medical bills in his fight against cancer, makes it all the more worthwhile. Pick up your copy here today.

One Shot Deal — Huh?

A friend finally lent me a copy of the latest ZFT release, One Shot Deal, for review the other day. Although it is always great to hear Frank Zappa, no matter what the excuse, my first reaction upon listening to this compilation was: Huh? What? Why? To any long time listener of FZ (right down to the rabid collector and completist), the tracks on this compilation will all seem quite familiar.

“Bathtub Man” sounds like many of the boogie/jams from the Roxy period (FZ was an obsessive recordist) which found their way onto the bootleg circuit via their road manager, Marty Perellis, who sold many 73-74 soundboard tapes to eager fans. The same can be said for “Space Boogers” and “Hermitage”. I kept getting this feeling that I’d heard these pieces before, or efforts quite like them, from the myriad of brilliant individual solos to be found on so many of FZ’s field recordings from that period of his career.

“Trudgin Across the Tundra” is an early instrumental proto version of the familiar FZ classic akin to the proto versions of Greggery Peccary found on the Wazoo release. “Occam’s Razor (On the Bus – Original Solo)” is one of this compilation’s gems, and the reason that freaks like me collect so many bootlegs and field recordings: to hear the original solos. I first heard “Heidelberg” (opening solo to Yo Mama) on the second disc of the four disc, fan made compilation bootleg, Apocrypha, and again on the cassette tape, The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa, though sounding far superior here.

“The Illinois Enema Bandit” is yet another version of this FZ standard. Probably the weakest point on this compilation is “Australian Yellow Snow”. I have heard better bootleg versions from this tour. The sound, itself, in this recording is really a substandard mix for what is supposed to be an official release. Too often the background vocals nearly drown out FZ’s lead vocals, and the audience chatter becomes very distracting. Perhaps the ZFT are attempting to dumb down our listening standards so they can begin selling us anything with a FZ stamp on it, no matter the quality? If there is one reason, though, for purchasing this CD, “Rollo” is that reason. Wow. I never tire of hearing that song.

Getting back to the premise of this post, though, what was the point of this release? There doesn’t appear to be any, at least none that I can fathom. There is little, if any, conceptual continuity going on. Instead of piecemeal compilations like this one, how about further sequels to the Stage series with complete liner notes? Or the Complete Audio History of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention? Like, Duh?

Grande Mothers Re-Invented Rock Canada Day

The Grande Mothers Re-Invented performed to an appreciative audience of about 300 at Festival Place in Sherwood Park, Alberta, on Canada Day, July 1st at 7:30 pm. They performed flawlessly for over two and a half hours with one fifteen minute intermission. For the most part, the material performed came from the period between 1965 and 1975. Highlights, at least for me, included exceptional performances of Pound For A Brown, Eat That Question, Chunga’s Revenge, Invocation And Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin, Holiday In Berlin, Abye Sea, Dupree’s Paradise, Little House I Used To Live In, Enchinda’s Arf (Of You), Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? and, of course, Sofa. There were enough songs performed from the catalogue of Mothers of Invention albums to satisfy any level of fan, newbie or hardcore, as the following setlist suggests:

1. Pound For A Brown
2. Call Any Vegetable
3. Eat That Question
4. Lonely Little Girl
5. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
6. Harry, You’re a Beast
7. What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?
8. Chunga’s Revenge
9. Holiday In Berlin
10. Abye Sea
11. Invocation And Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin
12. Idiot Bastard Son
13. Florentine Pogen
14. Evelyn, A Modified Dog
15. Enchinda’s Arf (Of You)
16. Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
17. The Air
18. Debra Kadabra (sung by Chris Garcia/amazing Beefheart-esque voice)
19. Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy
20. Sofa #1
21. Orange County Lumber Truck Medley
22. Trouble Every Day (sung by Don Preston)
23. Dupree’s Paradise
24. Little House I Used To Live In
25. Pygmy Twylyte

Encore 1: Peaches En Regalia
Encore 2: Montana

The Grande Mothers Re-Invented are:

Don Preston — keyboards, vocals
Roy Estrada — bass, vocals (pachuco falsetto)
Napoleon Murphy Brock — tenor sax, flute, lead vocals
Miroslav Tadic — guitarist (lead, stunt & otherwise/awesome)
Chris Garcia — drums

Jordan Zevon – Insides Out

Jordan Zevon, son of the late Warren Zevon, has just released his debut album entitled, Insides Out, from New West Records. Sure, there are bound to be comparisons with the old man. Especially with his cover of the song, “Studebaker”, which first appeared on the 2004 tribute album to his late father, Enjoy Every Sandwich. Yet, songs like Jordan’s “The Joke’s on Me” is enough of a self-effacing romp to reveal that he has found his own territory to explore and needn’t worry about being completely overshadowed by his father’s accomplishments. Check out Jordan’s MySpace page for both songs, among others.

Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues — I Don’t!!!

The two CDs I ordered from the German label, Promising Music, on April 20th, arrived this afternoon. Talk about speedy delivery. I was expecting 4 to 6 weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.

To start, everything they say about their reissues is correct: the CD packaging does resemble the gatefold albums of the era, right down to the grooves in the CD, and the vinyl record sleeve itself. Even the liner notes have been recreated and translated from the original German into English for us uni-lingual folks. In the final analysis, though, it’s not what they look like that matters, but how they sound.

Promising Music explains their re-mastering philosophy as such:

Restauration of the basic material as close to the original as possible. We give the integrity of the original sound top priority. By that we rather turn down an extreme reduction of tape noises (e.g. we feel, in case of doubt, leftovers of tape hiss less disturbing than a limitation of the sound transparency), and we edit the acoustic patterns carefully on the basis of original aesthetics (i.e. no “pseudo stereo” sound, no artificial reverbs, no additional compression, no superimposed “modern” sound scapes).

We remastered the original MPS master tapes digitally on a 24bit/88,2kHz level. By this we feel to reach, in comparison to a sampling rate of 96kHz, a more transparent and smooth sound, as the down sampling to the regular 44,1kHz Compact Disc standard runs much more plain and straight.

By this we produce pristine, true-to-original listening pleasure of these precious recordings at highest possible quality — not high tech sterility.

While neither are vinyl records, I use the same test with these CDs as I do with all the vinyl records I purchase: do they possess a deep, warm enveloping sound as opposed to a sound which is harder and more artificial?

Both CDs are excellent remasterings of these early MPS titles. While, admittedly, this was my first listen to Don ‘Sugarcane’ HarrisSugar Cane’s Got the Blues, the electrifying performances recorded at Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall from November, 1971, were rendered richly and vibrantly. I have heard digital copies of vinyl rips of George Duke’s Faces In Reflection, though, and this CD blows those mp3s out of the water. It’s like listening to a brand new album (which it is, in many respects). A joy in any language.